Gratitude – it’s a life changer
BY ANDREA J. FONTE WEAVER
I’ve been thinking about my late “father-in-love,” Walter, who had the gifts of gratitude and contentment. I would show up with our four boisterous boys – like a bit of a tornado – and he would sit in the eye of the storm with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. Well-pleased and content. Anything I offered or did – any kindness shown – he considered to be a huge gift.
Walter taught me to trust more deeply. Trust that there was good in the moment. Trust that “It’ll be alright” – one of his favorite sayings. Trust that “This too shall pass.” Trust that “It’s darkest before the dawn.” With trust, we are able to be grateful.
In examining the different definitions of gratitude, we read about being thankful, appreciative, expressing kindness, being content and well-pleased, as well as having trust.
Today – for what are you most grateful? Your grandchild? Sunshine? Freedom?
How do you express your gratitude? Does it begin with your Higher Power – G-d? Your adult children? The cashier who is kind?
How do you express kindness? Do you pay it forward – sharing the currency of love?
The research behind gratitude.
There is more and more research showing the benefits of “an attitude of gratitude.” People who are grateful experience:
- Better physical and psychological health with reduced stress, fewer toxic emotions, more resilience and better healing from trauma
- More fulfilling relationships in their lives with increased empathy and less aggression
- Better sleep
Harvard researcher Shawn Anchor, explains: “Writing down three [new] things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism and it holds for the next six months.”
A Moving Art original short. This inspirational video was well responded at TED conferences and filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg motivates those around him as happiness is revealed. Spoken word and music montage created and composed by Gary Malkin. Narration written and spoken by Brother David Steindl-Rast.
Gratitude in the face of adversity
In the past month our country has faced natural disasters, mass shootings, and refugees trying to find safety under the auspices of Lady Liberty. There are children sleeping in cars instead of cozy beds. Families being ripped apart by opioid addictions. It can all seem so bleak.
It is perhaps in these darkest of times that we need to begin to express gratitude. Gratitude that you have a child to love. Gratitude that in every tragedy, there are helpers, as Mister Rogers taught. Gratitude that we can be instruments of change.
I hope that you will begin to cultivate or grow a deeper attitude of gratitude. Watch how your life and those around you are transformed.
This is an excerpt from “Bridging Families” written by my team at Bridges Together. We design and develop intergenerational engagement programs for families, schools and communities. Each month we produce a How To Guide (H2G) on a different theme. To learn more, contact us at Hello@BridgesTogether.org
Gratitude Conversation Starters
- What are three things for which you are grateful for today?
- Who is someone who has helped make your life better? Tell us about the person.
- Tell us about a difficult situation that helped you in some way – some would call this “a blessing in disguise” or “a silver lining behind the cloud.”
Gratitude Activities to Do with Your Grandchild
- Make a decision to express gratitude for 3 new things each morning for 21 days. Share your lists.
- Start a ritual of gratitude when you gather with your grands. Before a meal or at the start of a phone call, take turns sharing something for which you are grateful.
- Play the Gratitude Game with your family. Invite each person to write something for which they are grateful on a piece of paper, fold the papers, and put them in a bowl. Have each person draw a piece of paper, read it out loud and guess who wrote it. You may want to make a disclaimer like: We are all grateful for freedom, family, friends, pets, health, and faith – so choose something else to share.
- Do a 21-Day Gratitude Challenge. Brainstorm a list of random acts of kindness and invite your family to do one random act each day for 21 days. Touch base each day to share your acts – a quick text is great!
- Watch one or more of these YouTube videos and then talk about it.
- One of Shawn Anchor’s videos on gratitude
- “Gratitude HD – Moving Art” by Louise Schwartzberg,
- “Say ‘Thank You’ – A Motivational Video on the Importance of Gratitude” with Denzel Washington
- Nick Vujicic’s “Attitude of Gratitude,” especially powerful since he was born with no arms or legs.
- “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message” by Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp
- “Grateful: A Love Song to the World.” Musicians Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmod brought together dozens of people from around the world to create this beautiful, heart-opening melody. Inspired by the 21-Day Gratitude Challenge, the song is a celebration of our spirit and all that is a blessing in life. For the 21 Days, over 11,000 participants from 118 countries learned that “gratefulness” is a habit cultivated consciously and a muscle built over time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – To read more from Andrea Weaver
Andrea J. Fonte Weaver is Founder & Executive Director of Bridges Together, Inc., an internationally recognized nonprofit providing intergenerational training and tools for grandparents, schools, communities, and companies. For more info, visit: www.BridgesTogether.org